"We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic," World Health Organization's Director-General made the remark at a media briefing on the COVID-19 coronavirus on 11 March 2020.
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- The number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled in the past two weeks.
- There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives.
This puts the mortality rate at 3.6%, a mortality rate far higher than not only the seasonal flu (reported as about 0.1% in the US), but also higher than earlier COVID-19 mortality estimates, which were around 2%. In an earlier briefing WHO had said the mortality rate was 3.4%.
The number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries are expected to climb even higher in the days and weeks ahead.
WHO concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction, have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.
“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death,” it said.
Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.
“We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus. And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time. WHO has been in full response mode since we were notified of the first cases,” it said.
- Of the 118,000 cases reported globally in 114 countries, more than 90 percent of cases are in just four countries, and two of those – China and the Republic of Korea - have significantly declining epidemics.
- 81 countries have not reported any cases, and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less.
“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic.”
Countries must take a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach, built around a comprehensive strategy to prevent infections, save lives and minimize impact.
In summary, these are the four key areas.
- First, prepare and be ready.
- Second, detect, protect and treat.
- Third, reduce transmission.
- Fourth, innovate and learn.
“We’re in this together, to do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world. It’s doable.”
Read the full speech here.
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